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Best roofing options for your home and business

Retired contractor Gary Puckett helped select a new metal roof for the church he attends. Photo: Tim Webb
The roof of Bethesda Church in Mt. Sterling was replaced in 2019 after a round of spring storms. Photo: Tim Webb
This home in Pikeville has a new metal roof from Classic Metal Roofing Systems of Kentuckiana. Photo: Classic Metal Roofing
Before image, pre-metal roof. Photo: Classic Metal Roofing
After image, post-metal roof. Some metal roofs, depending upon thickness and other factors, can last 40-plus years. Photo: Classic Metal Roofing
Roof upgrades can provide a fresh, updated look for a home. Photo: Classic Metal Roofing
Asphalt shingle roofs can last between 15-20 years depending on the type and brand. Photo: Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association
An asphalt shingle roof installation. Photo: Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association
Photo: Classic Metal Roofing
Photo: Classic Metal Roofing
Photo: Classic Metal Roofing
Photo: Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association

On April 2019, when rounds of spring storms battered the southern and eastern United States, retired contractor Gary Puckett noticed that multiple asphalt shingles were missing on the Mt. Sterling church he attended, and others were loose and ready to fall. He asked several older members of the congregation about the age of the roof and discovered it was well over 25 years old. As the deacon of buildings and grounds, Puckett knew he soon would be weighing the best options for a replacement roof. 

If you’ve repaired or replaced a residential or commercial roof, you know the choices can be overwhelming. According to a MarketWatch study report, asphalt shingles account for 80% of the roofing market, but there are other options, such as metal roofing, clay or concrete tiles or slate shingles. A homeowner or business owner must decide: Which option is longest lasting? Which option costs the least for the biggest impact? Which option is most energy-efficient? And which option looks best on my home or business?

Lifespan and cost

When it comes to determining the lifespan of roofing material, metal, and slate and clay tile roofs are the clear winners. 

Metal roofs last for 40 to 50 years, but that “varies significantly” with the type of metal, says Kyle Ramser, president of the Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association. “Copper can last much longer than that, while painted steel or aluminum would be on the shorter end. A painted steel roof should last 40-plus years, but in reality during that time frame the paint will fade/chip, rust may form and the panels will get dinged up by hail or falling debris.” The thickness of the metal and the types of fasteners—exposed or concealed—also are factors, Ramser adds. 

Slate tiles can last 75-plus years—“It will be the only roof you or your kids will ever have,” he says.

As for asphalt, 15-20 years is “a good ballpark, but again can vary significantly depending on the type and brand of shingle.”   

Both slate and metal roofs are also fire and extreme-weather resistant. Slate, clay and concrete tile roofs require professional installation as well as extra framing due to their heavy weight, which makes them more expensive.

Asphalt is the least expensive, and standing seam metal roofing falls in the middle of those options.

But within each of the categories, “there are plenty of variables that will affect the pricing,” says Robin Miller, executive director of the Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association. For example, she says, “Slate pricing varies in accordance with size, color blends and even where it is quarried. Metal pricing varies by gauge or thickness in steel, paint finish and panel profiles—there are hundreds of profiles. Even asphalt shingles vary by brand and style.”

To use broad-range figures, count on slate tile roofing to run $20-$30 per square foot; standing-seam metal to cost $10-$15 per square foot; and asphalt at $3-$6 per square foot, according to the Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association.

Labor costs introduce yet another variable, Miller says. A steep residential roof with lots of angles will be more labor intensive, and therefore, more costly, than a simple, lower-sloped roof. 

The fine print

Some contractors will quote material costs that include framing and underlayment, which is the material installed between a roof deck and the roofing materials. Some may quote material cost as “to be installed” or “installed.” Some quotes may also include the removal and disposal of the old roof. 

Contractors also may quote their materials per square, which is not the same as square feet. A square, according to the National Roofing Contractors Association, is “equivalent to 100 square feet or a quantity of material sufficient to cover 100 square feet of roofing deck.” Always ask your contractor to specify exactly what is included in the roofing quote.  

The efficiency factor

Energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are considerations when selecting roofing material. With their low manufacturing cost, slate roofs are an eco-friendly choice.

One of the major advantages of asphalt shingles is the ease of recycling the old roof, as well as its afterlife use in pavements and playgrounds.

With a metal roof, homeowners can select a color with ENERGY STAR heat-reflective pigments, which will keep those air conditioning bills lower. Joe Knife of Classic Metal Roofing Systems of Kentuckiana says, “Most of my customers say they are saving 17%-20% on summertime energy bills.” 

Visual appeal

Homeowners and business owners want a roof that is pleasing to the eye. A roof must complement the style, slope and material of the house it shelters. Miller advises homeowners to be aware of the roofing mandates of 

their homeowners association or the requirements for historic buildings, if their home has that designation, to preserve the architectural integrity of the structure. Most types of roofs come in a wide array of colors to match any shade of vinyl, brick or concrete. Even slate and metal roofs now come in a variety of colors and styles, including gray, blue, black, red, green and purple.

Close-up view 

A knowledgeable roofing contractor will advise the homeowner on the roofing options available for their house, but homeowners should always check with the manufacturer. The National Roofing Contractors Association recommends that anyone in the market for a new roof should look at full-size samples of a proposed product, as well as manufacturers’ brochures. Visiting a home or business that is roofed with the product you’re considering also is a good idea. 

When Puckett had weighed his options for a new church roof, he asked a committee of church members to help him make the decision. “We looked at which roof we thought would last the longest, what was in our budget and which would be the prettiest,” he says. The committee chose a 1-inch high-rib panel metal roof in a slate-blue color from Kentucky Steel Building Panel and Supply in Winchester and contracted the installation with Better Built Barns from Mt. Sterling. 

“When you’re selecting a roof, it basically comes down to personal preference,” Puckett says. “In the end, we were really satisfied with our choice.” 

How do you know you need a new roof?

“Roofs protect your most important assets in the world—your family, your home, and your business and livelihood,” says Robin Miller, executive director of the Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association. If your house has sustained significant wind or hail damage, the roof will need to be repaired or replaced immediately to avoid water leaks that might further damage your home’s value. The first step is to call your insurance company to check your homeowners policy for the roof repair or replacement deductible. Depending on whether it’s a repair job or a replacement, your insurance company will send an adjuster to assess the damage. 

But what if you’ve just bought your home? Or what if you’ve owned your home for a while and want to know if it’s time for a new roof? Here are a few tips: 

Look for signs of wear. Standing on the ground or surveying your roof with binoculars, look for missing shingles or shingles that are curling or blistered. Check around the chimney, satellite dishes or solar panels for worn-out flashing that might cause a future leak.  

Consider the age of the roof. Most asphalt shingle roofs are insured for 20 years.  Miller suggests that if individual shingles have a 50% loss of granular texture, it’s time to consider a new roof. 

Mark your calendar for regular roof inspections. Check the roof each spring and fall to detect a problem early. A good time to check your roof is when you’re cleaning out the gutters. 

Don’t procrastinate. If you notice your roof is aging or if it has been damaged from high winds or storms, contact a professional roofer for an estimate as soon as possible. Putting off roofing repairs or replacement can lead to costly water leaks. 

If you determine that it is time for a new roof, be sure to get several quotes from roofing contractors and make sure contractors are certified. A list of certified contractors can be found on the Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association website at www.krca.org.

Roofing Resources

You can get answers to all kinds of roofing questions on everything from materials to roofing types at www.everybodyneedsaroof.com. The site, which also includes a handy glossary of roofing terms, is run by the National Roofing Contractors Association, and like the Kentucky Roofing Contractors Association’s website, www.krca.org, it also can help you find a certified roofing contractor.

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